Dubai: Two of three former champions were sent packing to bring alive the second day of the Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Tuesday.
Two-time champion Elina Svitolina and defending champion Belinda Bencic had no answer to qualifier Jennifer Brady and Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, respectively. Svitolina caved in 6-2, 6-1 against an aggressive Brady in just over an hour, while defending champion Bencic did not have a Plan B for a late surge from the lanky Russian who won 1-6, 6-1, 6-1 to leave 2015 winner Simona Halep as the lone champion standing.
Bencic was in her groove early as she broke in the second and fourth games to serve out the opening set in just 24 minutes. Pavlyuchenkova then shifted gears in the second set and after an early exchange of breaks, the Russian won the next five games to draw level with the Swiss champion.
Bencic tried her best to hang in, but her opponent kept on finding distant corners of the court and breaks in the first, fifth and seventh sealed her an easy passage into the second round. “She’s the defending champion and I had to be at my best today,” Pavlyuchenkova said later.
“Despite being 0-5 down in that first set I tried to stay positive, work really hard and keep fighting for every point,” she added.
Bencic was left searching for answers. “I’m trying to analyse what went wrong or what was the turning point. Yeah, I think sometimes it’s even too dangerous when you start very well and then tennis just turns it around. At this point, I still don’t know what happened and I am still looking for an answer,” the Swiss admitted.
“Of course I’m disappointed. I feel like I have to work very hard to regain my confidence. I will definitely do that. I will give everything in practice sessions to be confident again. Hopefully, in one or two matches the momentum can turn around, it can just click and then I can turn things around,” Bencic confided.
Earlier, this was Brady’s second career win against a top-10 player following her smooth victory over world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty at the Brisbane International last month. “I think I served pretty well throughout the whole match. I started off strong on the serve, was able to apply pressure on the return games. I think just from the beginning she may have felt my presence. I was happy with the way I performed,” Brady reflected.
Brady, one of six players who came through the qualifiers, was pleased with the extra presence at the court during the past three days. “It always helps. Every match you play, you get more used to the conditions, the court, the balls. You start to get in that competitive match mode,” Brady admitted.
“It’s great to obviously have four matches under my belt going into the second round. I think it’s pretty good,” she added.
Katerina Siniakova bt Karolina Muchova 6-4, 4-6, 6-0; Jennifer Brady bt Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-1; Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova bt Belinda Bencic 1-6, 6-1, 6-1; Kristina Mladenovic bt Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-4, 6-3.